This week we are going to shift gears a bit and talk about a program that was initiated here in Northwest Arkansas called Razor C.O.A.C.H. This program, founded in the 2012-13 academic year, aims to Create Opportunities for Arkansas’ Career Hopes, motivating students in grades 10-12 to seek career or educational opportunities beyond high school. The program was implemented in 15 schools in Northwest Arkansas where the coaches work alongside each student to determine the best educational or career route for that student, mapping out each step necessary to meet that student’s goals.
What do the coaching sessions look like? Well, it depends on what that particular student needs. One student may need to be coached on how to enroll in college or prepare to take the SAT or ACT exams. Another student may need to be exposed to financial aid opportunities that can help fund their post-secondary education. Or one may need to be exposed to job shadowing opportunities to help bring guidance to his/her career path.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the program, the Office for Education Policy (OEP) performed a random assignment lottery which determined if the student would be assigned a Razor coach (treatment group) or would not be assigned a coach (control group). This random assignment is critical to determining the impact of the Razor COACH program on students. Random assignment is the Gold Standard of research design and allows us to find out if having a coach makes a difference for students.
This blog highlights the results gathered at the end of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years to determine if the program affected student performance in any way. There were two groups of students included: Cohort 1 was students from 2012-13 school year and Cohort 2 was students from 2013-14 school year. Both cohorts include students who were assigned a coach as well as students who were not.
Three research questions that were asked to determine how well the program worked:
- What is the impact of being assigned a Razor Coach on non-cognitive outcomes as measured during high school? Non-cognitive outcomes include: attendance, discipline, and self-perception constructs (self-efficacy, future minded, academic responsibility and engagement, grit, and external accountability).
- What is the impact of being assigned a Razor Coach on high school academic outcomes? Academic outcomes include: overall GPA and core-subject GPA, and credits earned.
- What is the impact of being assigned a Razor Coach on post-secondary outcomes? Post-secondary outcomes include: ACT performance, FAFSA completion, and graduation rates. In the future, outcomes will also include application to post-secondary institutions and employment or post-secondary education after graduation.
1. Short-term non-cognitive outcomes
Results have shown some statistically significant differences in the short-term non-cognitive outcomes in favor of students assigned a Razor coach. Cohort 2 students have measured positively in the following constructs:
- Academic Self-Efficacy, meaning they feel good about who they are as students.
- Academic responsibility, meaning they are aware of their academic standing, GPA etc.
- Future-mindedness, meaning they are implementing steps now to meet a future goal.
In comparison to the results of cohort 1 students there were statistically significant differences in favor of the treatment group in relation to external support and accountability. These students were more likely to report that they felt the support of another and felt accountable to another in relation to their academic performance.
2. High school academic outcomes
Additionally, results have shown that 74% of Razor C.O.A.C.H students have taken the ACT exam in comparison to 68% taken by control students. At the school level, treatment students take the ACT exams more frequently in comparison to the control students. However there were no significant impacts at the program level.
3. Post-secondary outcomes
53% of treatment students in comparison to 43% of control students have applied for the AR Academic Challenge, which is a program that provides scholarships to Arkansas residents who are pursuing higher education. There was also a larger number of treatment students who are planning to apply for financial aid in comparison to control students. Therefore one should expect more positive results in future analyses.
In examining the first two years of the program, 44% of treatment students have enrolled in some form of post-secondary institution in comparison to 42.5% enrollment for control students. There was more of a significant result for cohort 2 students as 43.9% treatment students have enrolled in post-secondary institutions in comparison to 35.6% control students.
So has the Razor C.O.A.C.H program been effective? Students selected for the Razor C.O.A.C.H program are more likely to enroll in college or other post-secondary educational settings in comparison to the control group. In that vein, the program has been successful as students are moving past what may have seemed to be obstacles in the past and are being encouraged to reach a little higher.
The OEP will continue to track post-secondary outcomes to further solidify the impact of the program and expect to see more significantly positive results in the future. For a more detailed analysis of the Razor C.O.A.C.H program, please click on this link to the Arkansas Education Report that showcases these findings.